We want women to sit at boardroom tables – but we also fetishise motherhood

Just when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late

Share

This week’s cheery news for career‑minded females is that women who give birth for the first time between the ages of 30 and 34 are precisely as likely to see their baby die as those aged between 35 and 39. Previously, the worrying “older mum” category began at 35. Oh, those troublesome older mums! That pesky group who cause so much consternation to health workers, mothers-in-law, and anyone else with an opinion on the fizzling-out firework that is your womb.

“Older” is not younger. A study of almost a million first-time mothers in Sweden and Norway showed that the risk of a negative outcome increases over the age of 30. For today’s empowered, educated woman the small window of opportunity between leaving university, establishing a career, and safely pushing out a baby and – of course, silly – a sibling for the baby dwindles ever smaller. Blink and you’ll miss it. Incidentally, I know that many working women reading this might be telling themselves that pushing out one baby by 35 would be an achievement, but NO. There’s a whole heap of other helpful research which indicates that your child will become a rocking oddity unless he/she has a brother/sister to smear with jam in the play room. Body clock versus the progress of female empowerment is not just a double bind. It’s a triple, quadruple, tangled (wo)man trap.

Sweeping aside whether one has actually found a partner one loves and who wants babies with you – we’ve no time for this romantic frippery – it seems the optimum time to start on the mummy path is aged 27. Many twentysomething men, quite rightly, become agitated by similiarly aged women’s obsession with the marriage and baby agenda. Yet, as a woman, the grim reality of one’s ticking body clock versus “everything else in the world that needs doing” is akin to being slowly strangled. The grasping, the manipulating, the bargaining – the acts of dissemblance that some young women are prepared to go through in return for a wedding ring isn’t just down to a mere love of marzipan and dress fittings. It has a lot to do with the tiny space of time we are allotted to be mothers, which this week was hacked away by another five years.

We want women to be empowered, to be educated, to earn, to sit at boardroom tables, to debate in Parliament, but then we fetishise motherhood – the fine art of managing to have a baby in the small time-space available – as the grand prize. There is no greater love, we’re told. No higher level of understanding. Being a mother transcends – society says – all other womanly achievements. Little wonder women send themselves insane trying to produce a little miracle. How odd that IVF units groan with women who have tried everything but will try anything else again.

“As a parent,” parents will begin random anecdotes, before beginning a story involving empathy, tolerance or affairs of the heart. For example, “As a mother I am very upset about the traffic lights on the high street”, a mum might say. Everyone will nod, leaving the child-free woman feeling sad she didn’t have a baby. Because not only does she not understand that traffic lights being faulty are dangerous and a pain in the arse, but she has to spend another long, hollow, child-free afternoon drop-kicking guinea pigs into next door’s leaf-shredder. Or whatever women past 35 who don’t have children do with their time.

Believe me, I don’t have children, and my life is just one, long, turgid round of wearing white trouser-suits that never have smudges, clomping around in a Dalmatian‑skin coat chortling at lost toy-rabbits that have been propped up on walls, and booking long-haul flights to holidays within the Axis of Evil. And, obviously, fretting endlessly about who will care for me when I’m old, because, as we all know, having a baby is an insurance policy that one won’t die alone, but will instead experience a much more deluxe death without pain or regret, bathing in a sea of love.

Or perhaps all of the above ideas on female childlessness are rubbish, and instead with the empowerment of women will come thousands then millions of women who just don’t have babies at all. Feminism is about choice and this is one matter where we need to begin exploring our options.

Twitter: @gracedent

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone